ESC Boston 2015 Heads Up! Awesome Analog Meters -

ESC Boston 2015 Heads Up! Awesome Analog Meters


Almost any information that is captured by a sensor or generated by an electronic or electro-mechanical system can be displayed in analog or digital fashion. A common example with which we are all accustomed is that of a household clock.

Other familiar examples are analog and digital versions of car speedometers and analog and digital implementations of multimeters. In the not-so-distant past, just about every form of electronic display was analog in nature. Over time, however, digital displays began to dominate the scene.

Generally speaking, digital displays are quicker and easier to read than their analog counterparts (note that this does not necessarily imply that digital displays are the more accurate — that depends on how the value to be presented is captured, stored, and displayed). Having said this, in some cases, an analog display might actually be preferable, such as an analog meter reflecting the current status of a system — with a brief glance the operator can quickly determine if the needle is in the green (“OK”), orange (“Warning”), or red (“Danger”) zones, for example.

In many cases, systems using large numbers of analog meters were created in such a way that the needles in the center positions of their meters indicated an optimal state. This allowed the operators to quickly spot any indicators that were diverging from the norm.

Quite apart from anything else, the use of analog meters (and vacuum tubes, of course) can add a certain je ne sais quoi to an electronic hobby project, perhaps lending themselves to a Steampunk look-and-feel, an art deco motif, or some other style depending on how you deploy them.

All of which brings us to ESC Boston, which will take place May 6-7, 2015. There are of course, going to be a cornucopia of presentations in the regular technical track on embedded hardware, embedded software, prototyping, teardowns, tutorials, and so forth (check the master schedule for more details).

In addition to these traditional tracks, we also have The Fantastical Theatre of Engineering Innovation, which is open to all attendees (both Conference and Demo Hall passes), and which is where you'll find some of the wilder, wackier, and off-beat topics. For example, as you can see in this video, yours truly will be presenting a session titled Creating Systems with Awesome Analog Meters.

The thing is that there are lots of tricks when it comes to using analog meters in general, and there are even more tricks with regard to using antique versions acquired from Hamfests and electronic flea markets. If you want to determine the resistance of the meter's coil, for example, a multimeter is not the way to go, because you can end up vaporizing the little rascal (the coli, not the multimeter).

All will be explained in excruciating detail (LOL) in my presentation. Have you Registered for ESC Boston 2015 yet? If not, why not? All I can say is that I very much hope to see you there. I'll be easy to spot — I'll be the one in the Hawaiian shirt running around in ever-decreasing circles shouting “Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic!” LOL

— Max Maxfield, Connoisseur of Quirky; Collector, Editor, and Disseminator of All Things Fun and Interesting
Circle me on Google+

Join over 2,000 technical professionals and embedded systems hardware, software, and firmware developers at ESC Boston May 6-7, 2015, and learn about the latest techniques and tips for reducing time, cost, and complexity in the development process.

Passes for the ESC Boston 2015 Technical Conference are available at the conference's official site, with discounted advance pricing until May 1, 2015. Make sure to follow updates about ESC Boston's other talks, programs, and announcements via the Destination ESC blog on and social media accounts Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.

The Embedded Systems Conference, EE Times, and are owned by UBM Canon.

17 thoughts on “ESC Boston 2015 Heads Up! Awesome Analog Meters

  1. “@Max: It's great to see you here.nIt's rare that I have to take you to task but think carefully about the old style house clock, is it truly analogue? As a self trained horologist I feel able to say. nTrue the hands move around the face in a continuous

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  2. “@crusty: That remindd nme of one of the issues with less-expensive analog meters (especially moving-vane types like Shurite). They often use rather inadequate bearings, and thus suffer from “stiction” that prevents the needle from reaching the correct

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  3. “Hi Crusty — it's great to see you here also — how's life in Crusty Mansions? Also, my complements to Mrs Crusty.nnYou are of course correct that a typical traditional house clock was not truly analog (or analogue) in the purest sense. As you say, if w

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  4. “Hi Mark — as you'll see in my next video showing the current state of play with regard to my Vetinari Clock — when I'm starting to characterize a meter, one of the tests I perform is to use the MCU to automatically cycle the meter back and forth from ze

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  5. “Re the speed of the site — on the bright side, have you noticed that this comment editor has an in-built spell checker? O frabjous day!”

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  6. “That's strange — I'm getting auto-emails telling me when a comment/reply is posted — let me check into that to see if you have to turn something on…”

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  7. “Re your comment: “When I was a kid we had one in the lounge with a noisy synchronous motor.”nnWe had one just like that!”

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  8. “Speaking of awesome analog meters, I saw some pretty amazing ones at a local surplus store (Skycraft in Orlando): 0-2500 DC Amps, 0-50 AC Megawatts, 0-5000 AC Volts, 0-9000 AC Volts. $9.95 each. Shunts/series resistors not included ;-).”

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  9. “Ooooh — I wish I could have seen them — what diameter were they do you think? The next time I come to Orlando I will make a point of visiting that store. Do you use meters in your own projects?”

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  10. “I took pictures (send me an email address privately and I'll forward them to you), but there's nothing in them for good scale. From memory, somewhere around 4-5” diameter, round face, square mount, 270 degrees or so readout. They do mail-order, I bet y

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  11. “Hi Steve — can you send the pics to — I cant wait to see them.nnRe fast visual estimation — for some reason I think it's easier to spot “trends” with an analog meter.nnSometime in the next day or so I hope to post a more det

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  12. “Isn't a clock (well one with an escapement or a quartz timebase) a digital system with an analog display? When I was a kid we had one in the lounge with a noisy synchronous motor in it which I guess was truly analog…. “

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